Saddam, who has been in US custody awaiting trial on charges of crimes against humanity since December 2003, could be swiftly executed if found guilty, said government spokesman Laith Kubba.
Saddam and seven henchmen will be tried by the Iraqi Special Tribunal over the 1982 killing of 143 residents in the Shi’ite village of Dujail, north-east of Baghdad, where he had been the target of a failed assassination bid.
The 68-year-old is also expected to face separate trials at a later date on further counts of crimes against humanity, particularly over the gassing of Kurds and the mass killings of Shi’ites in the south of the country.
Mr Kubba said that if Saddam is found guilty and sentenced to death after the initial trial, the punishment could be carried out without waiting for any further trials.
If the sentence is confirmed by the Supreme Council for Justice, the highest judicial authority in Iraq, and approved by the presidential council, it “will be implemented immediately… He could be executed after the first round”.
Iraqi Shi’ites and Kurds, long-oppressed under Saddam, greeted the news of a trial date with relief.
However some pointed out that the Dujail massacre was just one of a series of crimes for which they wanted vengeance.
Others who will stand trial with Saddam include former vice-president Taha Yassin Ramadan, former secret police chief Barzan Ibrahim Hassan al-Tikriti, a Saddam half-brother, and Awad Ahmad al-Bandar, a former chief judge and member of Saddam’s cabinet.
The remaining four, father and son Abdullah Khadem Ruweid and Mezhar Abdullah Ruweid, along with Ali Daeh Ali and Mohammad Azzam al-Ali, are former ruling Baath party officials responsible for the Dujail area.
Iraq reinstated the death penalty abolished by the US-led coalition after its invasion of Iraq, and last week carried out the first executions, hanging three convicted murderers.
Saddam, who was ousted in April 2003 and captured by US forces the following December, is currently being detained by US forces outside Baghdad airport. He first appeared in court in July last year.
The trial will take place just after a scheduled October 15 referendum to approve Iraq’s new draft constitution, but Mr Kubba said the timing was purely coincidental.